9 Things To “Invest In Our Planet” Everyone Can Do

The theme for Earth Day 2023 is “Invest in Our Planet”. Each year we celebrate Earth Day on April 22nd, focusing everyone’s attention to things we need to do to save our earth, to combat climate change, and ultimately make life livable on our planet.

Ultimately we do this for ourselves. Fact is, Earth and nature is able to regenerate, to reborn. As soon as we leave different areas, environments regenerate without any further intervention. One example of this are the forests around Chernobyl in Russia, where humans are unable to live. Left without human inhabitants, eventually as the radiation subsides from the forest, animals return in larger numbers than before.

So, reality is, we are only destroying our own change of survival. If humanity disappeared, Earth would survive. It may take longer, but it would eventually come back to life.

But we want to be here to witness nature and earth in all its beauty. So, because of that, it is important for every one of us to “invest in our planet”, since we are investing in our own future.

Earth Day 2023 poster. credit Katherine Bruchalski

The following are several easy – and small – steps to take every day, to help our planet survive.

1. Take steps to end plastic pollution

Plastic pollution is one of our most pressing problems at this moment. In fact, we are all ingesting plastic every day, with the air we breathe, with the meals we eat, from Microparticles that leak into our food sources, our water, and are even present in our air. That can’t be good for us. In fact, it scares me.

Ending plastic pollution should also be one of the easiest things to do. After all, we lived comfortably without the extra plastic, especially single-use plastic. There are plenty of easy thing to do every day to reduce our plastic pollution.

2. Clean Your Surroundings: Pick Up Trash When Hiking

Learn from the kids. I still love to tell the story of my hike with my young children – three and five – when they filled my backpack with trash they found on the trail. And they noticed even the smallest candy wrapper near the trail. This was after they both became junior rangers for the first time at Mount Rainier National Park and realized how important it is to keep the wilderness clean. Or when we picked up every piece of plastic we found on a beach with my youngest child.

I know it’s not fair to pick up after others who are inconsiderate. But someone needs to do it. And once you do, you’ll feel like you contributed, even if in a tiny way, to a healthy environment. The reason my kids felt was so important was the realization that human garbage hurts wildlife. And who doesn’t love wildlife?

3. Practice Sustainable Fashion

I learned the term and ways to do this from my youngest child, who is going to study environmental science and wildlife conservation. To be fair, we all, but especially she always practiced sustainable fashion, just didn’t give it a name. I rarely bought her new clothes, because she wore hand-me-downs from her sister. As she got older, her sense of style is different, but she still tries to buy second-hand items when possible, and we researched all the companies that are sustainable (as much as possible).

So, when we shop, we either spend a lot, or barely any on clothes. Yes, most environmentally conscious companies charge more for their clothing items. Besides using natural materials, they also make it a point to pay their employees competitive wages. So, I feel it’s worth buying from them, best clothing, shoes, or accessories. However, as my daughter points it out every time, it is still more sustainable to buy second-hand, since the item was already made, worn, and still in good condition.

Use the Earth Day website’s recommendations for shopping sustainable clothing.

4. Save Energy

Our energy usage has a direct correlation to the health of the environment. Power plants release toxic fumes into the atmosphere, they use limited natural resources, and they harm or even destroy ecosystems. Mining, logging, and fossil fuel extraction destroy habitats both on land and in the ocean.

So, by using less energy we create less demand for fossil fuels. And, as with everything, we may feel like one household doesn’t take a difference, if enough of us do it, it will.

And it is relatively simple to reduce our energy consumption. Run the washer dishwasher only when they are full, turn off the lights, and all electronics when not in use.

Maybe even dry clothes outside, on hangers. This is easier for those of use living in the desert, especially if we have a yard, but anyone can do it at least part of the time. As a bonus, clothes dried outdoors may smell better, and may have a longer life.

5. Save Water

Since we live in the desert, it is obvious to us why saving water is important. But, even those living in areas of abundance of natural water should learn to save what we use in our homes.

Clean freshwater necessary for our own consumption, drinking and sanitation, our crops, livestock and industry, is less than one per cent of the world’s water. In the same time, human activity disrupts natural water cycles, putting freshwater ecosystems under pressure. So it is important to watch our water consumption, no matter where we live on the planet.

In the same time, we all know that livestock industry, pollution, urban development are things that put the most strain on our water system, so you might think what we do every day in our homes doesn’t matter. But however small, it still makes an impact. And you alway shave the option to get more involved and try to help on a larger scale.

6. Eat Less Meat

Since the livestock industry is one of the worst culprit in our water management, by eating less meat we can eventually force them to produce less, and ultimately use – and pollute – less water.

Besides polluting our waters, it is by now a town fact that the meat industry, especially cattle, has the worst impact on the environment. It is one of the worst contributors to deforestation (to make way for livestock), and methane emission. In fact, scientists say methane emission from cows and fertilizer use creates as much greenhouse and emission as all the world’s cars, trucks, and airplanes.

And, besides being good for the environment, eating less meat is actually healthier. Besides the environment, your own body will also thank you for replacing meat, especially red meat, with beans, peas, and legumes (protein-rich plant/based food sources).

7. Grow A Pollinator Garden

This is easier than it sounds: let nature take over your yard. When plants grow in their natural habitat, they attract pollinators. This offers a glimpse into nature in your own back yard.

“Weeds” are non-desirable plants. However, I have trouble seeing them as such. They are local, they naturally live in the area, which means they attract bees, and butterflies during the day, while the night bloomers also attract bats.

Since I took this approach to our backyard, we all enjoy it so much more! Especially in spring. We have a wolf berry bush in our yard that freely started growing one day a few years ago, and all I did was protect it from anyone pulling it out as a “weed” when it was young. Now we have bees buzzing around it when it’s in bloom, and birds picking its fruit. We also eat the fruit, but usually prefer to leave it for the birds and watch them eat.

We have several palo verde trees and a mesquite, all started growing on their own a few years ago, when we stopped pulling “weeds”.

And, in spring, our yard is full of wildflowers, dominated by my favorite, the desert globe mallow. We have bees and butterflies visit them all spring.

Besides just letting them grow naturally, we also planted desert wildflowers. My son’s and daughter-in-law gave their guests tiny pouches of desert wildflower seeds on their wedding. I thought it was the best idea anyone came up with. Naturally, we also scattered them in our yard, and we have even more of a variety of wildflowers this year than before thanks to them.

8. Do Not Use Weed Killers and Pesticides

Besides being harmful to the environment, pesticides have been linked to cancer. So, why use something that can potentially harm you and your family? Every time I see my neighbors do this, I wonder about it. But I get it: as long as they sell them, they must be safe, some people think. Unfortunately that is not the case, but it will take a lot of education for everyone to understand this.

Besides, if you really feel the need to kill your weeds (native plants), you can find natural ways to do it. I am a believer in let plants grow. It all comes from our perception, or rather our names for them.

If you call them native plants, you like them; if you call them weeds, you feel they must be eradicated. So, unless you know you have invasive species in your yard – those you should get rid of – learn their names and call them native plants – you won’t feel the need to kill them.

But if you must, you can find plenty of natural alternatives to commercial weed killers.

Pesticides are a different story; I don’t want bugs in my house, either. But you’ll find natural ways to get rid of them, that actually work better.

9. Generate Less Garbage

“Reduce, reuse and recycle” were the words my kids learned even as preschoolers, to help the planet. Yes, they had a great school. They learned, and we did along with them, what could be recycled. But I knew even better from my own childhood that almost everything can be reused, and we don’t need half the things we buy.

We are very creative with reusing most things. For me, it comes from growing up in a poor(er) country, of army kids, from creativity. Before you toss something out, ask yourself if it could have a better use somewhere else.

Clothes your kids outgrow may still have life in them, thrift them. Kitchen gadgets you no longer use, but still work – again: thrift them, or give them away. Pure cotton t-shirts with holes in them – turn them into cleaning cloth. (It works great!)

Even food scraps you can compost (no meat products though).

How does this help the environment? It is pretty obvious that landfills take up space that could be used much better. They also create water pollution when trash is saturated with water and some particles can’t be removed through water treatment. They also create air pollution through the natural gases released from decaying materials.

In the end, using less helps your wallet, and the environment. So – and this is an example my kids leaner din school – before buying something new, as yourself: do I need it, will I use it, and how much of it do I need?”

Plant A Tree

When we think of Earth Day, most of us have the image of people planting trees in our mind. Indeed, planting a tree is one of the most effective ways to invest in our planet.

However, not all trees are created equal. At least, not all trees are created for all environments. What we sometimes overlook is that planting a tree is effective if we plant indigenous trees. Planting a citrus tree in the desert might grow, but it takes so much water, in the end it’s not the right thing to do.

So, make sure you plant an indigenous tree to where you live. Or, if you see one growing in your yard, leave it. Don’t pull it out as “weed”. I have three palo verde trees and an indigenous mesquite tree growing in my yard just because they decide it was a good place for them. I didn’t touch them, I am just watched them grow. they are beautiful, healthy, and make us happy.

But if you don’t have a yard where trees grow wild, or you can’t plant one yourself, you can always donate to the Canopy Project, or One Tree Planted, and they plant one for you.

Other Tips?

These are just a few things we can all do – and none are difficult – to help our planet, to “invest in our planet”, to keep it for our children and future generations. If you have any other ides, please add them in the comments. Thank you 🙂

To learn more tips and to learn more ways to help, follow Earth Day 2023, and participate in Earth Week, starting today, April 14th through Earth Day, April 22nd.

Earth Day 2023. image curtesy of earthday.org
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